Famine in North Korea Redux?

Stephan Haggard (PIIE) and Marcus Noland (PIIE)
Working Paper
October 2008

North Korea is once again on the brink of famine. It is a complex humanitarian emergency characterized by highly imperfect information and lack of trustworthy data on both the supply and demand of grain. Haggard and Noland assess current food insecurity there by looking at three sources of information: grain quantity balances, price data, and direct observation by outside observers. They criticize the widely cited United Nations figures as not credible and present original data on grain quantities and prices, demonstrating that for the first time since the 1990s famine, the aggregate grain balance has gone into deficit. Prices have also risen steeply. The paper also documents the reemergence of pathologies from the famine era. Both external and internal shocks have exacerbated the food situation in North Korea, including floods and the country's domestic and foreign policies.